T talks a lot about food. Good food. Good food that she will one day introduce us to. And by one day, she means when she finally remembers.
Such was the case with Vung Tau. T would mention it from time to time and she would always tag on a line about taking us one day. It took the approaching end of CK's stay in California for T to finally make good on her word:
T, CK, CL, my sister, and I piled into a car and away we went. Parking is usually a concern in downtown San Jose, but no worries at Vung Tau though because it has its own parking lot. Woot!
The layout inside is kind of strange:
It looks small until you go to use the restroom and you realize there's a whole other side to the restaurant.
The main reason why T would bring up Vung Tau was its banh khot ($9.50):
According to T, it's some of the best banh khot around the Bay. I'm no expert on these coconut-y pillows with ground shrimp, but I can confidently say that the banh khot at Vung Tau is freakin' delicious. That crispy outside. That softness inside. Wrapped in lettus and dipped in fish sauce? Perfection.
The banh khot was all I really cared about. I trusted T to order the rest.
She got us the cha gio or deep fried pork and shrimp rolls ($9.50):
I would never have thought of wrapping a fried egg roll in lettuce, but making lettuce wraps seems to be a very Vietnamese thing. It certainly made the egg roll taste healthier. As CK likes to say, I wasn't mad at that.
I also wasn't made at the goi sua tom thit or jellyfish salad ($13.50):
The crunchy jellyfish came with shrimp, pork, pickled daikon, and celery. Tangy and super refreshing, I could have polished off a plate all by myself.
The thing about letting someone order for the whole table...you end up having to do some investigative work to figure out the names of the dishes you don't recognize. Thanks to Yelpers who helpfully caption their photos, I know that this is called ba nam sadec ($11):
We could choose from rice, egg, or glass noodle. T tried to get a blend of two, but there was a miscommunication and our server brought us only glass noodles. Oh well. It still tasted great topped with tiger prawn, snow crab claw, and ground pork. Kind of like a Vietnamese spaghetti.
Also thanks to Yelp, I figured out that this is called bun cha hanoi ($10.50):
The grilled pork came with a side of rice noodles and greens.
From the lunch menu, you can choose a base (some kind of rice or noodle) and then add on whatever protein you want (minimum two). Each base has a different price tag as does each meat option.
For the base, T chose bah dap or rice noodle sheets ($7.25). She paired it with thit nuong or BBQ pork loin ($3.95) and tom nuong or tiger prawn ($2.50):
The noodle sheets were the most interesting thing we had that meal.
The most fun part was making all the lettuce wraps and then trying to stuff the whole thing in our mouths:
T describes Vung Tau as being a bit on the pricey side for a Vietnamese restaurant in San Jose, but the food is so good that people go anyway. After trying it myself, I can agree. The prices are noticeably higher in comparison to other Vietnamese restaurants in the area, but damn. That banh khot.
I am ashamed to admit that Vung Tau has made me just like T. I have told my mother multiple times now that there's this great Vietnamese restaurant downtown that I want to take her to. And I have yet to deliver.
Sorry, mom. One day soon, I promise.
Vung Tau Restaurant
535 E Santa Clara St
San Jose, CA 95112